When My First Cousin’s Husky Puppy Licks My Face / They Say Men Are Always About Looks

[poetry]

When My First Cousin’s Husky Puppy Licks My Face 

 

Adorable! swings wide from the roof  

of my mouth. Mom slams the soapstone, 

shoves the dog outside. Adorable? 

 

Really? What kind of man says that?

She waves her hands loosely. Adorable! 

Lurches as if to vomit. Just go 

 

finish the firewood. The splitting maul  

floats through my swing into sixteen  

inches of sycamore, disinterring  

 

honeybees mummified by winter  

like the township drunks always idling  

up the road, one of whom once said,  

 

Well, ain’t you adorable? He fingered  

my curls, I punched his nut sac. 

Why do I need to sound like a man 

 

when most men are small and wicked? 

Before dinner, loaded bees return 

to their burrow, raising dust 

 

under the boxwood, my hand a blur  

in their buzz that will never hurt me  

the same as a switch, an axe,  

 

a strange touch, the long quiet  

night, a tongue.


They Say Men Are Always About Looks

 

but I fell in love over the phone 

in 1989, his name two low notes 

 

shoved out my throat, repeated 

like a gulf smacking shore rocks 

 

in starlight, our letters tucked 

between issues of Uncanny X-Men 

 

because I did not want a willow 

switch across my back, 

 

did not want his hands cut off 

before he could touch me. 

 

When he called collect 

on Sundays at 1:45, after Maghrib, 

 

his parents asleep in their room, 

he whispered, Do you ride the 3-wheeler 

  

alone? Do you name the baby cows? 

Do you wear bib overalls without a shirt? 

 

What is it like to bale hay? Yes, yes 

and yes, hot and dirty, I said before 

 

explaining Rogue’s mutation, a touch 

that removes, a safety in distance. 

Ben Kline lives in Cincinnati, OH. His chapbook SAGITTARIUS A* will be published in October 2020 by Sibling Rivalry Press. A poetry reader for The Adroit Journal and Flypaper Lit, he is the 2020 recipient of the Christopher Hewitt Award for poetry and a finalist for the 2020 Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. His work can be found in The Cortland ReviewImpossible ArchetypeNo ContactDIAGRAMHobartJuked, A&U Magazine, and many other publications. You can read more at https://benklineonline.wordpress.com/.